|Photo by Ped-X-Ing via Creative Commons|
The art of writing blog comments may at first blush seem like a frivolous and unimportant one, but that is not actually the case!
Writing excellent blog comments is perhaps the very best way to build your own blog and/or social media presence. Consider a blog comment an audition to show off your own personal awesomeness.
Not all blog comments are created equal. Here are some good rules of thumb as you work your way up to becoming a blog comment ninja.
Read the Post You’re Commenting On, Then At Least Scan it Again
Yes, this takes time and the careful suppression of twitchy fingers. But there is no quicker way to leave an ineffective blog comment than to miss something in the actual post or to accuse the poster of saying something they didn’t actually say.
Accuracy is important. Good blog comments take into account the entire post and then come up with a good and original response. So not only take the time to actually really read the post, keep the comment on topic rather than bringing in an outside and unrelated agenda.
Get There Early
The most effective and influential comments are near the top of the comments section. Don’t work so fast writing your comment that you don’t leave a good one, but don’t dillydally either. Having a great comment in the first five to ten comments will get you noticed and will also probably result in a better discussion after your comment, which will please your host.
Scan the Other Comments First
Some might say that you should read every comment before yours. But people, it’s a busy world out there. It’s probably not strictly necessary.
But! At least go through and scan to see if someone else has said what you’re about to say. The first commenter who makes the Lady Gaga comparison is savvy. The tenth person who does it is annoying.
Give the Blogger the Benefit of the Doubt
While it is oh-so-tempting to spout off when someone says something inaccurate or that you don’t agree with, you don’t look better for stooping to that blogger’s level and engaging in a rant. Even if they deserve it.
Try and at least give the blogger the benefit of the doubt. They might not have meant for things to come out the way they did, and even if they did mean it, you look like the bigger person for treating them with patience and respect and staying above the fray.
Be Interesting and/or Funny
Have an interesting perspective. Bring interesting and/or rare pieces of knowledge. But most of all, be funny.
When it comes to good blog comments, funny wins every time.
Become a Regular
The very best way to be noticed isn’t with one really great comment, but rather with consistently good comments in the same place(s) over time. If you become a regular and valued commenter on a blog or site, the other readers of that site will take notice and are more likely to come your way.
Much like Cheers, you want to go where everybody knows your name.
Epic fail as almost the 50th commenter. But I have to thank you for this. This post has inspired me to be a better commenter. I'm really bad. I'm in such a hurry all the time that I end up just skimming the blogs for something that pops up and commenting on that. I don't THINK I've ever commented on something the blogger never really said, but…I'm going to be a better commenter because my following count sucks!
Okay, and also because it just plain makes me a better person.
E. VERNA says
On being funny? Asian jokes are not to be compared with Caucasian jokes. Delivery and timing is a must. We must, we must increase our BUZZ!
Anne R. Allen says
An important topic-I'm so happy to see it addressed. But I don't agree with the commenter who said you shouldn't comment if you don't have anything new to say. I can never have too many people add a comment like, "thanks for the info–it's just what I needed!". It seems to me that blog comments should primarily be about communicating with the blogger–even if he's a blog god like Nathan.
Kristin Laughtin says
I usually leave the post open in a separate window so I can refer back to it while making my comments, especially if it's a long post or there are links to multiple articles or thoughts on several issues. It makes it easier to double-check whether the post really said what I thought it said, as well, which (I hope) minimizes false accusations and the like.
That said, I am really sad when I get to a post late and find that somebody has (probably) said the same witty thing I thought in the 200 comments already there. I have to work! I can only read now because the reference desk is slow, and I'm already four hours late to the party. Oh, well.
@Teralyn: I've had that same annoyance as well. I've been really bad at being consistent with my blogging, which has translated into few people reading it (so far). It's disappointing to get a comment notification, get excited, and then realize it's just "Check out my (totally unrelated) blog kthx!" I think it's fine to direct people to your blog if you've written something relating to the current post, because at least that's giving someone a reason to want to read it. But just spamming your URL makes me want to read you less.
D.G. Hudson says
Getting here early is not an easy task, Nathan. But I'll persevere.
Thanks for addressing this issue. I have to admit, I usually like to make my own assessment of the posting and comment before I read everyone else's, and I do look for some of the 'regulars' comments.
You mention that being the tenth commenter to say something is annoying, but so what, if that is how that person feels? Funny responses are amusing, but not everyone has that ability. The regular readers soon recognize the voices of those who consistently follow a blog.
I've had that experience with speaking before I was fully informed, and one of your kind followers informed me of such. (Thanks, INK – topic was bookstores in SF)
Interesting topic, Nathan, and it's another way you're helping us to be more professional.
Ted Fox says
This is more useful advice than my wife's "Don't let 'em know you're not wearing pants."
Pen and Ink says
You consistently give good advice I can use. I liked your link at the bottom of the post to other related posts. I am going to start doing that with the "First line" posts. I LOVE the picture. I am looking forward to blogging the first line of JACOB WONDERBAR. Sounds like my kind of book
I think it's important to keep in mind that when the primary goal of blogging or blog commenting is promoting one's brand, all comments have to be taken with a grain of salt. Blogs that work this way don't tend to focus on finding out what is true or important. They also politely avoid all possibility of offending others' sensibilities or ruffling feathers – which is the opposite of the true nature of art and literature. Participating in such blogs becomes a way to pass the time with people who are hoping you'll buy their product while you hope they'll buy yours, kind of like dinner parties for salespeople. There are blogs in which the conversation is meaningful, but branding isn't a goal there. It seems fairly transparent to me when people are trying to sell their books while rarely mentioning their books – the conversation usually ends up going nowhere new or different. Some of the most fascinating blogs are by successful but rebellious authors who blog in order to explore important topics, but who don't give a rat's ass (am I allowed to say that here?) about whether or not customers ever buy their book.
Kenn Chaplin says
To follow my own wish for my blog, I thought I would comment directly at your site, rather than on Facebook 😉
Great suggestions and some interesting comments to boot. Happy new year!
Too long, didn't read. But I think blog comments r dumb & ur dmb too 4 writing about it gosh nathan srsrly
And everybody come visit my website plz. kthxbye.
"Get There Early"
Oh drat, this reminds me of the first page crits when if a wishful page contestant were on the wrong side of the planet or at work, it was too late for hope. (By the way, what happened to Friday crits?)
"Be Interesting and/or Funny"
I'm here at sixty comments. I'm posting today to give feedback (for what it's worth – probably not so much as I am tuning in after the first more listened to and appreciated comments) on this topic, not to entertain or show off. (And earlier, in my internet experience, what I saw a lot of was that one person's witty was another person's snark: i.e., approach funny with care.)
"Become a Regular"
Regular? And now pressure to be not only the early bird, but drink that tainted water with the thick stuff in it too? Egads. Oh a regular? Um… Nevermind.
I believe in the polite. Polite is King.
I think the above three (quoted) rules…um guidelines…probably apply more to people hoping to enhance their own online presence.
Personally, I come here to relax, listen, learn,and, sometimes participate in the conversation in a safe and polite manner. (I may have to compete in some areas, but that is not why I am here.)
Likewise, the forums are a safe polite place to share and get help amongst peers. Not everyone is out to enhance their social media presence; There are those of us just hoping to share politely the camaraderie of other writing types on this winding path.
Carson Lee says
An alternative to "LOL" which I've created is "GAL":
(giggling a little)
An alternative to "LOL" which I've created is "GAL":
(giggling a little)
Missed the first ten to fifteen comments.
I'll be off now, then.
Heidi C. Vlach says
There really is an art to writing an effective comment. I usually stare at comment boxes longer than I stare at New Post boxes, trying to compose that perfect ode to awesomeness. It's basically poetry. Ooh, there's an idea.
Poignant words capture
This moment in cyberspace
A shining new gem
The Red Angel says
This is an excellent guide, Nathan! Indeed, blog comments influence our blogging career more than we realize. I get very excited when I'm the first one to comment on a post and not the twentieth…I feel like for once I'm not late! 😛
I definitely know what you mean about being accurate in your comments…nothing is more embarassing than agreeing with the blogger on a topic that is opposite of what the blogger says!
Thanks very much for sharing these tips!
Rachael W says
I'm way too far downthread to be noticed (oh, well), but I did want to say that on this blog in particular, Nathan, the ideas left in the comments are often just as insightful as your blog posts. I've learned a lot about the writing business just by reading people's responses. With the exception of some of the anonymous trolls you get, this blog entry seems to be preaching to the choir in regards to stellar comments. =)
I guess what I'm trying to say is: Hi, all! It's nice to be here.
Doesn't matter when someone posts. I read them all.
All of those points are so very true.
However, I like to add one that I do with regularity when I come across a new blog.
Don't comment right away. When I come across a new blog I have a tendency to lurk for about a week or so, so that I can get a basic feel of the tone and tenor of that blog.
The last thing I want to do is leave a comment that doesn't reasonably reflect what the blog owner's personality/character/quirks might be.
Like if you're gonna leave a funny comment, make sure that its in the same kind of humor that the blog owner enjoys. Don't be crude and offensive if the owner doesn't like that kind of humor.
Elaine AM Smith says
Good advice for anyone who Blogs and comments.
I find it hard to imagine anyone who comments on your posts hasn't done the required reading. It seems that the members of the nuance police lurk here, checking up on the grammarians.
It's funny. Yesterday I spent an embarrassing half hour revising a two-line response to a man I'm starting to date whose awesomeness makes me feel like the dorky 12 yr old girl I still am inside. Cool to be able to have the opportunity to revise my chatting to seem breezy and casual instead of just blushing and stammering in person, but also a lot of pressure. Anyway… it's fascinating to watch the way communication has evolved with new media. As an English teacher, I'm inspired to study and develop some lessons on the art of using language powerfully in blogging, emails, even facebook :). I'd love for my students to have practical confidence in the newer networking arenas. Thanks, Nathan.
As a writer, getting there early to blogs was seriously interfering with keeping my focus on my writing. I used to be one of the earlier commenters most days on this blog, but now that I comment only when I have time and try to put writing before visiting blogs, I'm 1/3 of the way through completing my next novel. I feel incredibly more focused on writing, and I think that's important.
J. T. Shea says
'But most of all, be funny.' Brilliant! I NEVER thought of that!
Rick, I, for one, definitely noticed you.
Anna, not monkeys OR zombies. Monkeys AND zombies.
Carol Riggs says
Well, it's exhausting to leave comments on your blog, N, because you have so MANY–can't read 'em all, no way. Unless of course I stalk you the moment you hit Post. And humor is definitely in the eye of the beholder. But it's true staying upbeat and friendly is key.
AND, it's so much easier to leave a coherent and pertinent comment when it's easier to read the blog–i.e, when the post is shorter. Not to mention concise and clear! Thanks to you for sticking to pretty much fairly short posts. Love it.
February Grace says
Well I definitely missed the early comment window and if I read all the replies when there are as many as you get my eyeballs would fall out and roll across the floor (and my surgeons would be so annoyed with me for that after all their hard work) but come on, you can't tell me you don't love your 100th comment as much as your 10th.
Cause if you do people may stop commenting after 10 people beat them to it LOL.
Seriously, though- while it's true that people might click on your profile if they find you amusing and so commenting on blogs can be a good move in the networking jungle, the real reason people comment on this blog is cause we loves us some Luke Sky…I mean, Nathan Bransford 😀
Okay, I know, I know. I'm sorry. I'll go back to my corner now. But if you want to swing by there later, I've got Twinkies!
Aha! Is this what it has come to? Learning the proper way to comment on a blog.
for God's sake, help us all.
but I do love your enthusiasm for life Nathan . . . .
Well, I've already blown it by being late to the commenting game, but I wanted to thank you for your timely post. Timely because Lee Wind and I are running a Comment Challenge to inspire book blogging folks to get over their hesitation and to comment more. It is a great way to connect in the community and keep up your own blogging energy as well.
Most of the commenters on one of my recent blogs needed a heavy dose of this post. I hope you don't mind but I'm including a link on my blog now. Thank you so much. I'll also add you to my blogroll.
I've started my own blog and am trying to learn how to write a good blog post as well as write good comments on the blogs I follow.
I've always gotten good advice from you, so my question is…
How do I get a following?
This strategy is very effective, yet I have seldom heard it voiced.
I have found some excellent blogs by clicking on the names of commenters. Sometimes, the comments are more relevant to my needs than the original post.
Nathan, congratulations on a very clever way to boost the response to this post. I have noted the technique.
Ce3, I have the same concerns. Conformity is not a great thing for writers to aspire to, but it is something that sales people, whether they're selling books or something else, profit from. And, when contributors to a discussion need to keep in mind that they should be funny, I wonder how many serious topics will ever be covered. Personally, I don't want to appear on blogs simply as a PR brand of myself selling books. I want to write books that matter, about topics that aren't always funny. And I want to be engaged in conversations that don't involve people manipulating each other with their PR images for other commenters to buy their products. Maybe there are different rules for different types of blogs, some blogs revolving more around the discussion itself and other blogs revolving more around the use of sales techniques. I've been involved in book discussion groups with readers, for example, in which no one was allowed to simply say, "I agree!" or, "I disagree!" about other commenters' statements. Each commenter was expected to add their own significant insights into the book being discussed.
I like the long posts. Like hearing what Nate's got to say.
The Desert Rocks says
Your posts are way better than Lady Gaga!
Well, very often I'm up near the top. But not today, because I lived in fear of not being witty. That is until I read this excellent Onion essay. The Onion can be witty for me!
For your pleasure (and please say that in your head just like Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting):
I'm Only Happy When I'm Writing, Or When I'm Having Lots of Fun With My Friends and Family
Just for the record, I really do lol…a lot. Somtimes for no reason at all. But it would be really nice if I could literally lmao because it would save me a gym membership.
I love this blog, but often don't arrive here to comment until late, EST. So all the witty,funny, poignant, concise, relevant things have been said, and I'm usually bleary eyed and my brain is fried but if I don't comment, then I feel bad because then I'm a…dun, dun..dun…lurker.
What a quandary!
erica and christy says
But I work.
And raise a family.
And know sentences shouldn't start with but or and. But can't help it when restrained by these bestial constraits.
I go right to the last post and read up. Maybe I'm weird.
Hi, great post – I hope my comment follows your tips.
I think the main lesson is not to jump on the opinions of others- not just the blogger but the other commenters. There is no way to look good if you get involved in an online fight over opinions.
Am I last?
Don't leave comments that are too long with no paragraph breaks either, I always skim over them.
E.J. Wesley says
Elizabeth O. Dulemba, a.k.a. "e" says
Very helpful post Nathan – as usual. Thanks so much! I hope this one goes viral, it's sound advice. 🙂 e
Informative, and yet intimidating. 🙂
Thanks as always for your clear and timely thoughts.
Bryan Thompson says
Nathan, it's difficult to 'get there early' in your blog as I subscribe via email and by the time I've gotten your post the next morning, 596,345 other people have already gotten there. 🙂
Dude, you are a blog rock star! I think Jacob Wonderbar will be a space rock star, too.
Bryan Thompson says
@EJ – Hilarious!
as poster number 57676869, I realise, thanks to you, Nathan, that my comment will not be of interest to others, but… shit. What an eye opener this post is, mate! Instead of what I see on blogs, i.e., semi-drunken procrastinators waffling and revelling in semi-importance, you're telling me that, actually, most of the ppl who have commented her are in fact, desperate social climbers, carefully positioning their commas so they may become "considered" by others to be worthy of kudos…hahaha…
such saddoes they are…
have they not heard of "sport"? Sport is cool. You even get a medal, if you're really good!
This page will keep me warm all winter! Cheers, pal!
Mary E. Ulrich says
Good reminder Nathan. About the funniest thing so far is your use of "dillydally."
I like to think I've gotten better at writing comments over time. One strategy that helped me was practice on Twitter. It's a talent to say things in a few words.
MacDougal Street Baby says
How about one-day-late commenting? Personally, I think there's something to it.
Courtney Cook Hopp says
Great idea, Mary. Twitter is an excellent place to practice succinct, witty comments.
Laurie Boris says
Excellent points, Nathan. I'd add a couple more: 1. Don't use the comment thread to promote your new project; 2. Don't use the space to add the link to your blog where you blogged about the same topic. Bugs the pants off me.
Everyone has raised such great points to think about. Great list Nathan.
Mira, I really love your comment about letting your personality come through in your comments and not trying to force the 'funny'. I understand Nathan isn't saying every comment has to be witty etc, but your point rings true for me. Thanks for that.